mirandy and brother wind, jerry pinkney, book cover

Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators: The Pinkney Family

November 10, 2009
by findingDulcinea Staff
Children’s books are a family business for the Pinkney family. Jerry and Gloria Jean, the two eldest Pinkneys, along with their son Brian and his wife Andrea Davis, are all well-known creators of children’s literature. Each author's biography reveals unique personality traits that come across in their books.

Art School Beginnings

Jerry Pinkney illustrated such books as “The Patchwork Quilt,” “The Tales of Uncle Remus” and “The Talking Eggs.” He explained his technique to Houghton Mifflin: “I don't see things until I draw them. When I put a line down, the only thing I know is how it should feel, and I know when it doesn't feel right.”

Jerry attributes much of his success to his wife, Gloria Jean Pinkney, whom he met at art school in Philadelphia. The two have collaborated on many books. Gloria's assistance with research and taking photographs has informed much of Jerry's work, and she has produced several books of her own. In her author biography from Penguin Group, Gloria describes her first book, “Back Home.”

“It rekindled some old memories and I realized how much history there was in my own family," she said. "When I came home and started thinking about it I knew I was ready to write a book.” Since “Back Home,” Gloria has written several other tales based on the characters introduced in it, including “The Sunday Outing.”

The Next Generation

Brian Pinkney, Jerry and Gloria’s oldest son, told Penguin Group, “[My parents] have such respect for each other. I think that's why they have been so successful as a couple.” Brian has always observed his parents closely. As a child he watched his mother and father working on books together, and knew immediately that he wanted to work as an illustrator. He went to art school as well, and—like his father—met and married an author, Andrea Davis, according to Houghton Mifflin.

An exposition of illustrations by Jerry and Brian Pinkney is available from the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum Web site.

Brian explains his love of creating books for children. "I make pictures for the child in me. My work is actually my way of playing. That's why I think children enjoy my books; they recognize me as one of their own." Brian’s many books include “Sukey and the Mermaid,” “In the Time of the Drums” and (with his wife, Andrea) “Alvin Ailey.”

Brian has collaborated on several books with Andrea. Before they met, Andrea was working as a senior editor for Essence magazine, and had not yet discovered her talent for writing children’s books. According to Voices from the Gaps, a Web site of the University of Minnesota, Brian encouraged Andrea to write, pointing out that she often made comments on manuscripts he was working on. Andrea also helped establish “Jump at the Sun,” a children's book imprint aimed at promoting African American literature.

Most Recent Features